Moscow comes to bring Uzbekistan 'Russian peace'

Victoria Panfilova, columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specially for Vestnik Kavkaza
Moscow comes to bring Uzbekistan 'Russian peace'

Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a state visit to Uzbekistan on October 18-19 at the invitation of his Uzbek colleague. Tashkent has already defined the Russian leader's visit as a milestone. Russia enters Uzbekistan with long-term projects - nuclear (building a nuclear power plant) and educational (opening branches of Russian universities) - worth about $20 billion.

This is something new for Uzbek-Russian relations. That is how experts estimate the scale of future cooperation between the two countries. On October 18, the first Uzbek-Russian education forum will take place, which will be attended by the rectors of 82 Russian universities. Following the meeting, 130 cooperation agreements between higher education institutions of the two countries will be signed. Director of the Tashkent Center for Research Initiatives 'Ma'no' Bakhtiyor Ergashev believes that the inter-university forum will mark the beginning of a new stage of humanitarian cooperation between Moscow and Tashkent. The key issues are opening branches of Russian universities in Uzbekistan, launching double degree programs, training Uzbek students in Russia, expanding the Russian language space. According to Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Chief Researcher of the Institute of Market Problems of Russian Academy of Sciences Nabi Ziyadullayev, "science and the educational process must be linked to Russia."

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev set a task for Uzbek scientists to revive the Institute of Nuclear Physics in the republic, which was one of the leading ones in Soviet times. It became especially relevant for the republic after the signing of the agreement with Russia on the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Navoi region.

Vladimir Putin and Shavkat Mirziyoyev will attend the ceremony of launching the construction of nuclear power plant. Expenses of the project are financed by Moscow. Russia is becoming a monopolist in the emerging nuclear industry of Uzbekistan. Rosatom will pursue the construction. According to the project, which was developed in Soviet times, and then was forgotten, Rosatom proposes to build a nuclear power plant consisting of two modern blocks of the 'three plus' generation VVER-1200. A similar project is implemented by Rosatom in Bangladesh. The project costs roughly $13 billion, $11.3 billion of which is provided by Russia as a state export credit. The Belarus NPP cost $10 billion. The cost of an Uzbek nuclear power station is not reported yet. It is possible that it will be cheaper, since Uzbekistan is one of the largest suppliers of uranium to the world market. This reduces the cost of raw materials for nuclear power plants.

In total, Russia and Uzbekistan will sign contracts worth about $20 billion. The contracts will be signed following the results of the Forum of interregional cooperation of the two countries, which will be held on October 19.

Nuclear energy is not the only sphere of Uzbekistan, the development of which is facilitated by Russian investments. Since April, the Kandym Gas Processing Complex in the Bukhara region (LUKOIL) has been working in the republic since April, the construction of the Jizzakh oil refinery has been started as well. There are projects for the construction of two large metallurgical plants in Tashkent and Karakalpakstan.

Another interesting long-term project is the reanimation of the Suffa International Radio Astronomy Observatory - the "world's largest" telescope for scientific research in space communications. The construction of the radio telescope began in 1985. It was supposed to be a unique research tool, receiving short wave radio signals from space. In 1991, construction was frozen, although part of the installation was ready. The object has been put on hold. Construction will resume in the near future.

The Suffa radio telescope is a dish with 70m antenna diameter. At the moment, its base has been created. By decision of the presidents of Uzbekistan and Russia, the facility will be completed as part of the international observatory. The Pulkovo Observatory, the Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, design institutes and other scientific organizations of Russia will be involved in the work. "This will be the first Russian scientific center project in a foreign territory," President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sergeyev said.

It is expected that the political part of the visit will be also busy. Vladimir Putin will discuss with the Uzbek counterpart the situation in Afghanistan and building up cooperation in the framework of the SCO, the Assistant to the Russian President Yuri Ushakov said. Moscow has recently seen Tashkent as the leader of the Central Asian region. By location and population - 33 million people - it is the largest state in a strategic position. For Russia, it is important to maintain good relations with Uzbekistan. For Uzbekistan, the alliance with Moscow is one of the most important components of the foreign policy balance, maintained by Tashkent.

Doctor of Political Sciences, Deputy Director General of the Center for Strategic Estimations and Forecasts Igor Pankratenko told Vestnik Kavkaza that Russia's problem is not that niches for trade and economic partnership with Uzbekistan have been limited: "In fact, in terms of serious projects it makes sense now to talk only about cooperation in the energy sector. First of all, the construction of a nuclear power plant and the launch the Kandym Gas Processing Complex in the Bukhara region (LUKOIL) this April, as well as the construction of the Jizzakh oil refinery. The problem is not even that Tashkent is seriously concerned about the potential impact of U.S. sanctions on Russian-Uzbek projects, since the recent idea that the SCO could become a shield against them is puzzling. The main problem is that Moscow has to compete for the status of Tashkent’s strategic partner both in the economy and in the military-technical sphere, although things are good enough with in. But competition isn't one of its strong suits, to put it mildly," the expert believes.